Saturday, August 08, 2009

Google - please give me tasks that appear on my calendar

I get a lot of value from Google Calendar, but there's plenty of room for innovation. In particular there's something relatively easy Google could do that would significantly improve my life.

First though, a bit of background.

I used to manage my time and planning around tasks, using a Franklin Planner biased version of Getting Things Done. I did so much with tasks at work I wrote an Outlook tutorial on advanced task management.

Problem is, I was adding tasks faster than I could complete them - especially when I tried creating tasks rather than letting emails sit in my inbox. The task backlog was kind of crazy. Since entropy means I'm getting dumber every day in most every way I had to find a new edge.

My current business approach works better. It's something like this (my personal planning is similar, but it's coordinated with my wife and is a bit simpler):
  • I use mind map software to do a 2-3 week planning cycle (Agile software devpt methodology taught me that).
  • I put the "A" tasks on my calendar. They don't go to my task list, just the calendar. I schedule what it takes to do them, and I'm getting better at time bounding those tasks.
  • I create very few "B" tasks -- these get dates but no calendar slots. They get completed opportunistically.
  • I create "C" tasks that are categorized by context -- but lack dates. Example: If I'm near a store I check my shopping list. (Less common at work, but common at home. If it's work related and it's not critical/must do I just don't do it.)
  • I do clear out my email inbox every day or two, mostly following GTD principles. I found I really have to do this, but I work hard to discourage email. How I reduce email use is a topic for another post, but among other things I follow the "two strikes" principle. If any email generates two send/receive cycles I create a meeting. Since most folks really dislike these meetings it encourages them to think hard before sending email. I also invest time and thought into email I write, crafting it to "kill" the response and save time on the back end. I think of business email like a serve in tennis - it should be impossible to return.Link
My newer approach is a significant improvement on my old methods. By combining these approaches with better use other people's brains I stay one step ahead of the reaper. Or so I dream.

Which brings me to where I want Google to help.

I really would like to have those appointments also be tasks. That way I could thread them to projects, use the completed task archive as a useful guide, and distribute tasks/projects across calendar slots. Gorilla Haven's DateBk did something like this on the old Palm Classic. You could create a kind of appointment (forget the type) that had a complete attribute and would jump forwards a day if not completed. It was close to what I want, but not close enough.

I want to have tasks that have optional one to many relationships to calendar slots.

From a task I can create a calendar appointment that links back to the task. From the calendar I can create an appointment that has a companion task with a link to the appointment. I also want to be able to add appointment links to an existing task.

From the appointment I want to be able to complete the appointment subtask, or the entire task.

Is that too much to ask?

OK, so maybe it's a bit extreme. I'd accept a simple 1:1 task to appointment link. Just throw me a bone Google! (See also - a prior, similar, plea on my tech blog)

Of course if Google gets that one done, I've another one they could look at next ...

1 comment:

John Gordon said...

Erica Joy wrote a comment I accidentally rejected. She wrote:

Have you seen this:

I checked on the link, and it's a good improvement to Google Calendar. It's similar to the task/date views most calendars have had since the dawn of Sidekick. (The Borland PIM, not the phone.)

It's not what I was asking for though. I want the tasks to occupy a calendar slot just like an appointment.